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New on-demand bus technology floated as potential solution to Victoria’s transport woes

Commuters disembark from the Route 55 bus at Marshall Station. Picture: Nathan Dyer. Courtesy: Herald Sun

The days of the traditional bus route could soon be numbered, with start-up technology firms targeting Melbourne suburbs as an ideal location for new on-demand services.

Infrastructure Victoria has recommended local governments embrace the emerging technology which would replace traditional bus routes with apps that allow residents to order buses to their front door.

The smaller shuttle buses would then ferry passengers to train stations and other hubs within the local area.

On-demand services have already been rolled out in Manly and Sydney’s eastern suburbs, with weekly passengers numbers soaring since the service was introduced early this year.

Infrastructure Victoria chief executive Michel Masson said many bus services in Melbourne could be improved, with 40 per cent of the entire network underperforming.

“In our 30-year strategy, we recommended innovative transport services to be delivered within five years, calling out specifically on-demand mini buses,” he said.

“Although fully autonomous vehicles on our roads are still some years away, on-demand transport is available here and now, and can start to pave the way for a future with new types of road and vehicle technologies.

“We believe an overhaul of the entire bus network has the potential to improve Melbourne’s congestion issues.”

Liftango CEO Kevin Orr, whose company has spearheaded the NSW trial of on-demand shuttles, said Melbourne municipalities had shown interest in the technology.

“We’ve talked to a few (councils) in Victoria already,” he said.

“I see a future where there’s no designed bus network as there is today.

“Instead you’re using data to build the best routes everyday and you’re getting really good granular data on how people travel.”

Mr Orr said the services were the next logical step as governments prepare for an autonomous revolution on our roads.

“The only difference would be the presence of a driver, the service will work exactly the same,” he said.

“We see this appearing in places where fixed bus routes don’t necessarily work or are getting quite low passenger numbers.

“Everything would be done via an app for an experience similar to Uber to help get more people into our transport system.”